How do print publishers know when they have successfully “made the transition to digital”? Here’s Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons:

“We’re not looking to move our publishing company out,” Time Warner Chief Executive Richard Parsons said at the Merrill Lynch media conference in London.

He added, “It can be in a 8, 9, 10 percent growth business for a long time, if we successfully make this transition to digital.”

So Parsons thinks legacy print brands that have successfully transitioned to digital can grow 8-10%. But how exactly does the math work? If I were an investor in a company with print publications, these are the questions I’d be asking:

  • Are print and digital growing in tandem? If so, is the print growth rate greater than or equal to digital growth, our so small as to be insignificant?
  • Is digital growth so high in the face of declining print that it yields a net positive growth rate?
  • Is the growth driven by continued lay-offs and cost control?
  • Or does it mean shutting down the print publication entirely and riding the digital growth wave?

You can’t blame the CEO of a public company for being vague, but you have to wonder whether behind closed doors they even know the answer.